Monday, 30 March 2009

Bring on the freakshow.

I foresee many weeks of trashy television ahead. It seems that if we're no longer satisfied by endless panel shows and cheap reality TV, we should all just get lost and watch something else. Like programmes about freaks, thinly veiled by the documentary format, fooling us into thinking we've moved on from the Victorian freakshow.

We have Channel 4 to thank for our endless stream of educational heart-wrenching documentaries about people battling with rare diseases, disabilities and health conditions. How lucky we are that this education is also extremely funny. They call it 'extreme biology'. I prefer to think of it as television giving us the ability to stare at those we wouldn't be able to in the street.

For those in doubt, switch over to Five and see the same poor bastards, but with a less sensitive title and a rendition of "Yakety Sax" set to a narcoleptic trying to climb a staircase. Case in point, a programme documenting the struggle of a teenager suffering with hypertrichosis; the title being "It's Not Easy Being a Wolf Boy".

Kudos to Five, at least they're honest.

Channel 4, on the other hand, seem more concerned with meeting their public service output standards. They have the upper hand when it comes to this sort of thing. After all, who is going to write to Ofcom saying that they found this week's freak too funny? The only people who don't watch these types of things for entertainment are the ones who are lying. There's a limit, however, and C4 leaves that to Five, who are more than happy to stick "I Gave Birth to a Mummy" into their schedule. Not before "Extreme Fishing with Robson Green", though. That goes without saying.

Fat people are easier to make documentaries about. There's less of a problem with poking fun at obesity. After all, it's almost always self-induced, and even if it isn't, we assume these people are liars. Editors seem to have a great amount of fun when piecing together a documentary about fat people. There seems to be a textbook equation for the genre (which can be succinctly described as the 'ChubDoc'); leave the swimming pool underwater shot in. Make sure their rolls of flab are rolling as they cry, to destroy all credibility in what they're saying. Film them eating as much as possible. If they look like whining porkers, job done.

If that fails, get Gok Wan in to tell them they're going to die (and so he'll probably be the last person they see). That'd be enough to put anyone off their chips.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Sugar-coating a bitter pill.

It seems somewhat foreign to me that even at the depths of a global recession, the BBC continues to reassure us that 'everything's alright', by providing us, the disheartened public, with an evening of watching rich people make even more money. This Wednesday, and every Wednesday forever, we will be blessed with an evening of (un)reality TV as we watch genuinely abhorrent people resorting to cutthroat tactics in order to win a job.

Escapism? It doesn't really sound like it to me. Go to your local job centre and you can see the same thing happening. The only difference is that the people are far less attractive and there's no SurAlan to sit in an aluminium boardroom next to Richard Curtis and a more butch version of Germaine Greer.

After a brief rundown of the contestants, who unusually are all 'out to win', the sexes are split and challenged to make as much money as possible by cleaning people's stuff for them. Unfortunately for the two groups, their upper-middle class upbringing has rendered them incapable of cleaning anything, and no amount of shoe polish or Turtle Wax is going to change that.

The boys decide that their best tactic is to give up on the slightly more profitable shoe shining, and to take a taxi across Greater London to help the more inept members of their team to clean cars badly. The girls are faring even worse, resorting to the tactic of blaming everyone else for their own bone idleness. And their accountant seems to be having some difficulty understanding... accounting.

One typically feminine slanging match later and we're treated to the comforting familiarity of Alan's firing ritual. Predictably, dopey Anita is kicked out. With her unconventional arrangement of facial features, it seems that Sugar is going to be firing the women in reverse order of objective attractiveness.

It was a close call really. My money was on the one who looks like a cross between Vic Reeves and Alan Carr.